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The worst mistake you’ll make when taking a new banking job

Mistake change banking job

Don’t do it. Don’t relinquish a perfectly mediocre job with a perfectly precarious organisation for something which promises to push all your buttons but in fact pushes you into a dark chasm from which your career may never fully recover.

It happens all the time in every walk of life, but it happens especially in banking. Where else is the restructuring continuous, the need for organizational support imperative and the ability to bounce back once you’re aged 35+ limited?

If you make a wrong job move in banking, your tenure is likely to be short. Witness Bryan North Clauss, the former head of hedge fund and real money sales at Morgan Stanley. Last September, North Clauss quit Morgan Stanley and joined Deutsche Bank as head of U.S. rates sales. A mere 11 months on, he quit Deutsche last week. Rumour has it that he resigned over cultural issues and Deutsche doesn’t seem to have hired anyone to replace him. Either way, North Clauss’s Deutsche job looks unfortunate. Yes, he escaped the fixed income layoffs at Morgan Stanley, but he joined a bank in the midst of a restructuring. To make matters worse, Chris Yoshida, the man who recruited him at Deutsche left soon after he arrived and was replaced by a new and demanding alternative.  It’s not clear whether North Clauss has a new job to go to, but it seems highly likely that he wouldn’t repeat the Deutsche experience if he could.

“You can always ask questions about restructuring before you take a new banking job,” says Richard Hoar, a director at recruitment firm Goodman Masson. “But unless you have the ear of the CEO, you could always be surprised.” Uncertainty is worse in the run-up to Brexit, says Hoar: “No one knows what banks’ location strategies are going to be. Banks are all saying they’re committed to London, but they’re also saying wait and see.”

When you switch banking jobs now, you’ll therefore do yourself a disservice if you underestimate the risk of strategic upheaval. Even in September, North Clauss could have seen that Deutsche had a big strategy shakeup coming, although he couldn’t have seen Sam Wisnia waiting in the wings (Wisnia’s arrival was only announced in October).

“The people whose jobs don’t work out often don’t ask the right questions,” says a senior headhunter at a markets search firm. “Only once they’ve joined a new firm do they find that the culture’s not right for them, or that they don’t get on with the boss, or that they’re able to use far less balance sheet than they’d expected as the bank reins back risk, or that primary business is being cut.”

And if you find yourself in a new job that doesn’t work out? You may be stuck there. “If you’ve only spent two months in a job, you’ll always be asked about it further down the line,” warns Hoar.

Never has it been more important to do thorough due diligence about a bank’s strategy before you join. Yes, it may be impossible to establish whether reporting lines are about to change and jobs are about to be shipped to Frankfurt, but you can at least try. And you can at least try comparing the risks of similar eventualities where you are.

Most of all, though, you should avoid the temptation to succumb to stasis in the face of uncertainty. “People’s biggest mistake is that they wait too long to move,” says Chris Robbins at search firm Alpha Tradestone. “In the current market, banks are looking for diversity of experience and people who’ve worked across multiple platforms. If you spend 10 years at one platform or you’ve only ever worked there, your attraction to other firms will be a lot less.”

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